Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We want to be ML3 but out consultant says we have to be ML2 first. Is this true?

Hey Jeff,

Our boss says we need to CMMI ML3 ASAP.  We went out and found a CMMI consultant who told us we first had to be CMMI Level Two or else the SEI would not approve our appraisal. That doesn't seem fair - we hire really smart people and we're probably already ML5.  Please help before my boss does something dumb! ~Ernie


If you've been following my posts, you know how I feel about a lot of "consultants."  It's just too easy to get a business card printed up and start selling yourself as an expert.  There is a lot of misinformation out in our industry about the CMMI, so let me try and help.

First of all, if that's what you were told your consultant is wrong.  That's it.  There's no more to be said about it.  They obviously have never been trained, or even been close to a SCAMPI Appraisal.  In the very first, most basic, "Introduction to CMMI" Training Class the material clearly states that "Maturity Levels Should Not Be Skipped" (emphasis on the word "should") and even this is in relation to a process improvement focus, not appraisals.

Lead Appraisers have conducted many CMMI appraisals where ML3 was the company's first appraisal - and yet the SEI accepted them.  I say "accepted" because the SEI doesn't usually approve the appraisal per se, instead they verify it was conducted properly based on the requirements of SCAMPI.

Maybe what your consultant was trying to tell you was that you SHOULD not skip a CMMI ML2 appraisals. If that was their advice, I completely agree with it.   Almost every client I work with that skipped wished they hadn't.  But it's not a requirement.

The SEI has done a pretty good job of defining the foundation - and it's in Level 2.  Going directly to ML3 sometimes forces you to make decisions that you won't want to make - resulting in Process Debt that will be difficult to unload for a long, long time.

So do it right, take your time, and please - work with someone who is qualified to help you save time, money, and frustration.

Oh, and if you were ML5 - you wouldn't say "probably."  You would KNOW.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec! 

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead AppraiserCertified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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